The Effect of Fast Fashion

Currently, the fast fashion industry is catastrophically damaging our environment, and whilst it’s doing so in numerous ways, I wanted to research a particular avenue; water. That being arguably one of the most important factors- we need to look after- that needs to also be sustained.

Figure 1- Jeans

Something that can be found in the majority of our wardrobes are jeans. But not all of us are aware of the true cost of owning them. According to the BBC: ‘it can take over 15,000 litres of water to grow the cotton to make a pair of jeans’ (Sanghani, 2018). Not only this, but because of the continual consumer need for these cotton garments we’re seeing whole lakes drying up. The Aral sea- once globally the fourth biggest lake- had ‘completely dried’ (Hoskins, 2014). Whilst this obviously leaves residents with no water, it also seriously affected their health. Pesticides were released from the exposed sea bed and affected people and farm land (Hoskins, 2014). Also, dust has replaced water, causing respiratory problems for people nearby (Hoskins, 2014). From watching a documentary a few months ago, I understand the surrounding residents have been slowly trying to recover the sea (BBC, 2018). However, I think that’s something that shouldn’t have to be done, the problem of water usage should have been addressed much sooner before a whole lake emptied.

Figure 2- Water

From the decrease of vast water to the quality of it: ‘fashion is the cause of 20 per cent of water pollution globally’ (World Bank cited in Nahyan, 2019). During the textile dyeing procedure, 85% of the water used pollutes the local water sources (Cotton inc cited in Nahyan, 2019). Greenpeace are seemingly very invested in this matter and have created a ‘Detox’ campaign: ‘which exposed the links between textile manufacturing facilities using toxic chemicals and water pollution’ and aims to encourage fashion brands to eliminate the hazardous portion of manufacturing (Greenpeace, 2012). The chemicals ending up in the water are highly toxic to the wildlife and people who rely on those water sources. Azo dyes are commonly used in the textile industry, when some break down during the process another chemical is released, that one being able to cause cancer (Greenpeace, 2019). Furthermore, heavy metals are used in certain dyes which once in the body, can have irreversible effects (Greenpeace, 2019). Overall, I think it is a basic human right to have clean drinking water and it leaves me feeling guilty to think many people don’t have that, just so we can have highly-toxic-made clothing.

The points I’ve put together in this post apply to fashion as a whole but with the alarming rate of the fast fashion industry, it’s safe to say the latter is also very much accountable. Finally, whilst I think we’re all starting to become more aware of the issues that lie within the fast fashion industry, I think we still have far to go.